The newspaper industry is seeking an injunction in a bid to prevent the government’s plans for a new system of press regulation being approved tomorrow.
Industry bodies said in a joint statement that they would seek an injunction to try to stop the cross-party Royal Charter being approved by the Privy Council on Wednesday.
Last week, industry leaders announced that they would apply for a judicial review of the Privy Council’s decision to block its own plans for a new press regulator and papers were filed with the High Court yesterday.
The industry bodies have now been granted an emergency High Court hearing on Wednesday morning for the injunction, just hours before the Privy Council is due to meet.
Earlier this month, a group of senior politicians turned down the industry’s request for a Charter to oversee its proposed new Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso).
A statement from the Newspaper Society, Newspapers Publishers Association, Scottish Newspaper Society and and Professional Publishers Association claims that the decision was “wholly unfair, irrational and unlawful”.
It said: “The bodies representing the British newspaper and magazine industry today filed their case for judicial review of the decision by a Privy Council Committee to reject the industry’s proposal for a Royal Charter to create an independent Recognition Panel to oversee applications for recognition of a self-regulatory system of press regulation.
“The case is being brought by all the four trade associations representing newspapers and magazines – the Newspaper Publishers Association, the Newspaper Society, the Scottish Newspaper Society, and the Professional Publishers Association – through the Press Standards Board of Finance, which made the original Royal Charter application.
“The Statement of Facts and Grounds lodged with the High Court today contends that the decision by the Privy Council Committee was wholly unfair, irrational and unlawful.
“It argues that the failure of the Privy Council Committee to carry out a fair and transparent consultation on the industry’s Royal Charter application was made even more significant by the fact that the possible involvement of the state in the regulation of the press raised very serious constitutional issues.
“Given the gravity of these constitutional issues, the industry’s lawyers asked the Privy Council on Friday to give an undertaking that the rival cross-party Royal Charter, written by politicians and the Hacked Off lobby group, would not be presented to the Queen for sealing on Wednesday. That request has been refused and an injunction will now be sought.”
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has criticised the decision by the publishers to seek legal action, which it said was “disappointing”.
It said: “The industry Royal Charter was considered in an entirely proper and fair way by the Privy Council Committee and the reasons they were unable to recommend its grant are in the public domain.
“Whilst they found acceptable areas, they identified fundamental issues that were not compatible with the Leveson principles such as a lack of independence around appointments and funding and no requirement to provide an arbitration scheme.
“The Government is working to bring in a system of independent press self-regulation that will protect press freedom while offering real redress when mistakes are made.
“The Culture Secretary pushed hard for recent changes on arbitration and the standards code to be made, which will ensure the system is workable and legal action is particularly disappointing in light of these changes.”